Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

in the dark

Weeping may linger for the night,

but joy comes with the morning.

          Psalm 30


I was caught in a cycle of worry and anger. I was not just walking a dark path; I had let the darkness inside me. Evil always seeks to obscure the light, because once it has you living in darkness, that which should not be painful becomes so…. 


What we forget, faith-wise, in our fear—what I was forgetting that night in my daughter’s room—is that even in the darkest night, when we see no light at all, the light is still there. The sun is still shining over Earth even when our side of Earth rotates away from it. The stars still shine above us, no matter how thick the clouds above our heads. What we need in the darkest nights is to keep walking along the path until we can glimpse the stars again. What we don’t need is to panic and run blindly into the woods. 

          Otis Moss III  (Center for Action and Contemplation, Daily Meditation 6/28/23)



It stuns me

Freezes me

Astonishes me

Saddens me


It is the picture of Uncle Sam

Face angry

Hand offering a gesture of disrespect and hate

(you know the one)


Underneath the words

F@*& Biden!




It is the comments

Repeating lies

Making things up

Spewing hate


It is the blind, unthinking loyalty

to people who do not deserve such devotion

to the greedy

the liars

the abusers

the predators

be they conservative or liberal


it is the division

the violence

desire to control

the lust to eradicate the “enemy”


the willful ignorance

that simply accepts the talking points

that supports one’s bias


until we are all stumbling along in the dark


It stuns me

Freezes me

Astonishes me

Saddens me

This fear

This hate

This darkness


Sometimes it feels as if the morning will never come

As if the darkness will smother us

Crushing us

Until the breath of life is gone


I want to scream

To lash out

I am confused by people I love and care about

Embracing lies

Supporting what I believe to be evil

(and yes, I know they disagree)


I don’t know how to respond

Do I confront?

Do I attempt to correct, to reason (good luck with that!)


How can I find understanding when I do not understand?

Do I forgive (duh!)


But it all comes down to this

How do I keep walking down the path toward the light

How do I keep loving

How do I dance in the dark


It must come down to this eventually


What do I allow to fill my soul?

Darkness, or Light

Hate, or Love

Despair, or Joy?


I believe, Lord, help my unbelief

Help me trust in the morning

In the presence of Love


Remind me, as I stumble in the dark

That “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”


Help me to dance in the dark

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Priest, prophet, pastor

I love my country

I love my faith system

I love myself (I hope in a healthy way)


Therefore I examine

Therefore I have moments of disapproval


Socrates said that the “unexamined life is not worth living”

But self-examination is not always an easy thing


Kurt Vonnegut Jr. asks this follow-up question.

“But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?” (Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons)


And Alex Bosworth suggests, “Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. But you know, an over-examined life can be a real crap festival, too.”


One of the things that has always impressed me as I have read the Bible

Has been the presence of healthy criticism


In the Hebrew scriptures, we have the prophets

Who are nothing if not feisty and critical

Not to mention blunt

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”


In the teachings of Jesus, we have those moments when

He exposes our worst tendencies as human creatures

Our judgementalism (You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel)

Our hypocrisy (Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence)

Our failure to take care of the vulnerable (Matthew 25)


Yes, there is more!


And Paul and the other writers of the letters certainly had no trouble

Calling out the early church for its various foibles.

Paul, for example, called out the church in Corinth for turning the Lord’s supper into an occasion for inequity and worse.  “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, and another gets drunk.”


Thank God for this honesty!

Perhaps one of the things that has allowed me to remain within the bounds of the Christian faith is my belief that there is room for







And there is room for criticism, change, and growth


There is a place to call our nation out for the ways it is wrong

A place to call out the church for its failures

And a place for challenging ourselves.  How with think, how we respond to others, and how we behave.


One of the greatest challenges of a person ordained into the ministry of word and sacrament is to find a balance between challenge and affirmation.


Between being a prophet and a priest

Priests are about the status quo (I think)

About passing on the beliefs, and yes, the rituals, of the faith system

Priests are those presiding at the table, reminding us to remember the works of God


Prophets are those calling us to be better

They are those pointing out how we have stumbled off the path

And are failing to be what God calls us to be


(I think there is also the role of pastor, which is very important for many people.  It seems to me this role was actually given to those called Deacons.  But this role in many churches is also laid on the shoulders of the clergy)


So Pastor, Priest, Prophet


Can one person embrace all of those roles?

I suspect we lean in toward one role over the others


I believe I am, perhaps, heavy on the prophet side of the equation

I can be one who challenges.  Even blunt.  One who stirs things up


I can be pastoral

And I do, in fact, administer the sacraments


But I suspect I am more prophet than priest

I also suspect that in the American church, there are more priests than prophets

Although I think many consider themselves prophets but are really priests

They “protect” the church, and point to enemies without

They call out the sins of others but are blind to the sins of the church (blind guides)


I have an element of pastor (I am a licensed therapist)

But honestly, as an introvert, I struggle to be that warm, reassuring presence some seek

(and need)

I often wish I had a better balance




I believe the American church needs more prophets

It needs more Martin Luther King Jr’s

More people like William Barber, Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, Jacqui Lewis

Barbara Brown Taylor, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Diana Butler Bass


Yes, we need the priest (for we need the sacraments)

Yes we need the pastors (we are pretty beaten up)


But we need the prophets

But we need prophets who, once they have challenged

Can welcome and comfort


Like Jesus did


As I said, it’s a complicated thing

Its something I am thinking about on this summer solstice morning

Monday, June 19, 2023


The shadow self is not of itself evil; it just allows us to do evil without recognizing it as evil!In fact, we often believe that we’re doing something good. That’s the power of the shadow. That is why Jesus criticizes hypocrisy more than anything else. Jesus is never upset with sinners, but only with people who pretend they are not sinners.

          Richard Rohr, quoted in Daily Meditations CAC 6/19/23


On a cultural level, shadow means what our group, our tribe, our religion, our political party deems negative, out of bounds, to be shunned, to be improved, or to be punished. Behind every social oppression lurks a piece of group shadow whose members are exporting it onto others who are not of their tribe. When the shadow part is not faced, it goes unconscious and lives there.

          Ann Ulanov (quoted in Daily Meditations 6/19/23)



What lurks in the shadows of my soul?

It is an honest question.


I suspect things are hiding there that I do not know

I suspect things are hiding there that I do not want to know


And that is the problem


Because what lurks in the shadows is often revealed in the stark light of day

In my words and my behaviors

In my perceptions of others.


There are those things that shape and move me

And take me to places that are not kind or just


Those things unacknowledged


A need for power

The fear of irrelevance

Pride, and its close friend, arrogance

An undeserved certitude that demands that my opinion be accepted as fact

That my values be seen as superior

That my understanding is more profound


My own personal needs to be liked


Even loved


My shadow is made up of those ways in which I think too highly of myself

My shadow is made up of those places where I am needy


And when I deny the shadow

And allow it to dwell in my soul





I give it power

And it oozes out of me

A dark mist of bias

Of judgment, fear, desire

And so much more


And I project all the ills of my soul

Onto others

Controlling, demeaning, using, manipulating




I do what I condemn

I am shadow pretending to be light

Thinking I am light


Multiply me by a church

By a political party

By a nation


And it is a horror


May the light shine in the darkness

May I see, understand, name, and accept (as real) those things


May I allow the light to dispel the shadows


May I be so filled with Sacred

That slowly



But surely

The dark corners of my soul are exposed

And healed


Only then can my true self emerge

Me, In the image of God 

Monday, June 12, 2023

No and Yes

I have often been told that when one first turns to God, one is greeted with brilliant Yes answers to prayers.  For a long time, this was true for me.  But then, when God has you hooked, God starts to say No.  But it has been more than a No answer lately; after all, No it is an answer.  It is the silence, the withdrawal that is so devastating.

          Madeleine L’Engle  (The Irrational Season, p. 173)


In a world full of jive

Full of homicide and suicide

There's no room for love and romance

In a world full of spite

Full of hatefulness and bitterness

Sincerity don't stand a chance

And every night I close my eyes

And ask the stars above

Oh where, oh where, oh where, oh where is love?

          Lyrics by Jay Davies, sung by the Kinks



I love “yes”

Do you love me?  Yes!

Is it time for dinner?  Yes!


I love it when all things work together for God

When life is full of Sacred yeses


When the sanctuary is full

When my relationships are working

When I am affirmed for what I do

When I am valued for who I am


God is full of “Yes”

Every sunrise and sunset is a “yes”

Every smile, every laugh!

Every “thank you”


The joy on an old woman’s face when I show up to visit, perhaps her first visitor in a week, is a “yes”


I love it when it feels like Sacred is saying “yes”


But there are so many moments of “No”


I am never quite sure if they are really “No”

Or merely “not yet”

Or even a “redirect”


I am not sure if certain moments are God’s “no” or

Simply the “no” of human creatures getting in the way of God’s “yes”


But there are truly times

When the deepest yearnings of my heart

Go unfulfilled

And times when it seems, I am not allowed to escape the pain and loss

Times when I cannot avoid or deflect.


There are other times when God simply seems silent

When prayer feels, literally, like praying to a stone wall.


Even Jesus had such moments

In Gethsemane

He asked God to “take this cup from me”


The answer was “no”


On the cross, God seemed silent!

“My God, My God why have you forsaken me!”


But out of God’s “no” to Jesus, came a great “yes”

The resurrection

And past the silence was a grand reunion of parent and child

The joyful dance of the Trinity united


How often I have found that I needed the “no” to get to the “yes”

And how often I have found that God’s silence is not merely silence

But simply the still small voice of the Sacred

The whispers of the divine, being drowned out by the noise of the world


There are times I do not understand

When the “no” seems simply like “no”

When my father died of cancer, young,

When my mother died of a variant of ALS, young


When all my prayers for them went unanswered

I still do not understand why two such wonderful and precious souls

Should have had their lives shortened in that way

While people I see as truly evil seem to go on forever


Sometimes God seems truly absent

And I wonder, as fascists thrive and hate proliferates

As the world burns

And justice is denied

Where God is in all of this?


I am not one of those who can simply say

“Someday I’ll understand”


I have questions.  I want answers

I struggle with trust


But life goes on

And history unfolds

And I am left, as was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Moses and David

And Jesus


Crying into the heated air

“Oh God, into your hands I commend my spirit”


Left only with a frail trust

in an eternal “yes”


Monday, June 5, 2023

Jesus Stopped

Jesus stopped.  And healed.  And loved. Not causes, but people.

          Madeleine L’Engle


“I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand!”

          Linus (Peanuts)



I think Jesus disdained causes

He didn’t line up with any group

Not the Sadducees, or Pharisees

Not the Zealots or the Essenes

Not the collaborative movement which went along with Rome (it’s the money stupid)

Or the movement that wanted to eradicate all the Romans


Jesus didn’t have much time for movements

because he only had eyes

for people


People who happened to be Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots and Essenes

Noble and common

Rich and poor

Powerful and powerless

Healthy and ill

Confident and confused

Faithful and faithless

Righteous and holy messes


And when he saw people

Who were hurting, questioning



(whether they knew it or not)

Jesus stopped.  And healed.  And loved.


He did what he could to make people safe

Accepted and welcome

He did what he could to bless

To guide

To transform


He did not just work to help them become who and what

They were created to be

Children of God


But he worked to make sure they were fed, clothed, and house

To make sure their thirst was quenched

Be it spiritual or physical


And when he went on his way

He left people who were changed

(or if not changed, sad and thoughtful)


Yes, I know, there are places for movements

And causes

But sometimes our allegiance to causes can leave us blind to people

We can be so into stopping abortion

We lose sight of mothers and fathers, and children already born

And we can become cruel and destructive


We can be so into gun rights

The environment

Animal Rights

(pick your cause)


That we fail to see people

We fail to see their fear, their pain, their anger

And we an end up discarding them

Diminishing and marginalizing them

Hurting them

Without compunction

After all, “the cause!”


I don’t know sometimes how to balance it out

I don’t know how to see the people who are wrapped up

In beliefs, attitudes and actions

That violate love


It is difficult to stop and truly see them

It is difficult to love them

It is difficult to treat them with love


But Jesus did

He stopped and talked with kindness to the rich young man

The tax collector

The Roman soldier

The members of the Sanhedrin

The lepers

The afflicted

The poor




How do we do it, Jesus?

How do we see those who cross our paths

How do we see them as your beloved children

As our brothers and sisters


How do we not let our causes

Our divisions

Our own sense of right and wrong

Good and evil

Get in the way of love?